Independent and award-winning creative agency, Zambezi has hired technopreneur, innovator, and filmmaker, Dawn Thomas as their first Head of Culture Strategy and Content Innovation. In her new position, Thomas drives the agency’s Samsung business and is responsible for overseeing all agency client initiatives to elevate creative strategy, brand narrative and cultural IQ.
She was recruited by and reports to Zambezi’s Chief Strategy Officer, Kristina Jenkins. “I believe in finding inspiration and talent from unexpected places”, says Jenkins. “Dawn straddles a range of industries leveraging a deep understanding of people and an exceptional network. She is someone who sees the opportunity instead of the challenge in everything she does. She truly knows what it takes for brands to create with culture in powerful and meaningful ways.”
“For me, culture is truth and stories are powerful,” says Thomas “Culture is a phenomenon that is constantly changing, refusing definition, and rejecting formulaic tropes. It appears across many passion points and is fueled by music, art, entertainment, fashion, technology and more. It doesn’t ask for permission and it can’t be bought. My intention is to continue building a collective of culture’s muses, invest in and amplify their passions, and architect strategic blueprints for brands fueled by authentic story narratives.”
“Dawn is a gladiator,” says Jean Freeman, CEO Zambezi. “She thinks out loud, challenges the status quo, and is fearless. She doesn’t play it safe or stay within traditional boundaries. She has no interest in that—and neither does Zambezi.”
“Dawn is a dynamic hybrid of intellect and creative,” says Zambezi Chief Creative Officer, Gavin Lester. “She’s bold, unconventional and multifaceted and doesn’t limit her ideas to traditional strategic thinking. That’s a very good thing for advertising and for culture.”
Thomas’ background is impressively eclectic, with a J.D. in International Corporate Law (Syracuse) and a Masters in New Media Business (Newhouse School of Public Communications). She began her professional life on Wall Street in bank analysis, hedge funds and derivatives later moving in-house to a tech startup in the Equity Group Investments portfolio. However, with an obsession for technology, finance and storytelling, she moved to Los Angeles to explore opportunities in entertainment.
Thomas started that career at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) working in the Film Finance, Film Talent, and Television divisions. She then became a Senior Development and Production Executive for Will Smith’s production company, Overbrook Entertainment (Pursuit of Happyness, I Am Legend and Hancock), managing a slate of film and television projects. At Overbrook, she worked with some of the industry’s top creative professionals, as well as major studios and networks (including ABC, CW, Sony, and Warner Bros) with budgets from $10M-$100M+. Later, she founded the company’s interactive marketing division developing digital content and franchise strategies. Creating transmedia campaigns to promote original IP’s and studio films (including I Am Legend), she developed original content producing motion comics, graphic novels, virtual games and live action shorts in partnership with brands like Xbox, Apple, DC and Vertigo Comics.
Following Overbrook, Dawn ran a consultancy for creative talent, TV networks and brands (Fiat, Hulu, Neutrogena, Reebok, Verizon, Walmart) structuring content deals, producing multi-platform campaigns and designing creative strategies.
Thomas is also a tech entrepreneur, a front-end developer (Java, HTML, and CSS), and founder of her own interactive content platform, Koi Media, producing immersive narratives (including VR and 360) for women - a community she is passionate about.
Thomas’ hire is a continuation of Zambezi’s expansion of their Strategy Department led by Jenkins. Earlier this year Zambezi hired Wieden & Kennedy executive Danielle Pak as their first Director of Communications Planning, launching a new Communications Planning offering within the agency’s Strategy Department.